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Community Engagement with People from Refugee Backgrounds: Learning from the Refugee Health Advisory Group (G11)

Community Engagement with People from Refugee Backgrounds: Learning from the Refugee Health Advisory Group (G11)

Mater/UQ Centre for Integrated Care & Innovation, South Brisbane, Australia
BACKGROUND AND AIMS:
People arriving in Australia as refugees are often unfamiliar with the Australian health system and face multiple barriers to accessing health services. This paper will outline key components of an effective community engagement model that is being used to overcome some of these barriers while simultaneously building the capacity of the health system to respond to these particular needs of communities from refugee backgrounds.


METHODOLOGY:
The paper will highlight a meaningful strategy for consumer engagement that is not “one size fits all”, ensures engagement practices are not tokenistic or an “exotic add on”. It offers tips for practitioners to build trust with the communities that it wants to engage with, by presenting the case study of the ‘Refugee Health Advisory Group’ (the G11), a project that has been established for 5 years by the Mater in Brisbane.


CHALLENGES IDENTIFIED:
Consumer engagement is a well-established aspiration of health services and is enshrined in health policy. Less is known about effective engagement with “hard to reach” vulnerable communities such as those from refugee communities. The case study of the G11 offers guidance on developing a consumer engagement strategy with refugee background populations that is based on the principles of recovery from trauma. It highlights the importance of community, interpersonal, management, and structural considerations.


IMPLICATIONS AND CONCLUSIONS:
The ‘Refugee Health Advisory Group’ have enhanced access to the consumer voice for health services and policy makers, increased the skills and confidence of health service providers and increased health literacy for refugee background communities.